Marsala is good for ones health!
The fortified wine known as Marsala is named after the port town in which it is made. Its history is similar to that of port wine (from the city of Porto in Portugal) and sherry (from Cadiz, Spain) i.e. being fortified with the addition of brandy to extend its viability for export by sea. It's a sweet wine, often used in sauces and desserts, though it is also drunk in the same manner as port or sherry wines, having various types and colours.
The town is a historic one, being the point at which Garibaldi and his Spedizione dei Mille (Expedition of the Thousand) entered Sicily as part of the force to unify Italy by taking the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, as it was then known).
The port of Marsala got its name from the time of the 8th century Berba invasion when it was dubbed Marsa Allah (Port of Allah) - a story that many locals concur with though some say Marsa Aali (big harbour). Parts of the Marsala have a North Africa look and feel to it in parts, as do some neighbouring towns. Hardly surprising since the coast of Tunis is not far away and neighbouring Libya was for a time an Italian colony.
Marsala remains a centre of wine production - the Pellegrino winery, which is in the town, has recently opened a new wine-tasting bar in a modern style that reflects the increasing popularity of the wine. The centre of Marsala has the Norman-built Cathedral dedicated to St Thomas of Canterbury, the church of St Francis of Assisi, and the historic Antico Mercato, an old market that dates back hundreds of years
Close by, between Marsala and Trapani, is the Stagnone Lagoon Nature Reserve, a marine area with salt ponds, the islands of Mozia, Isola Grande and Isola Santa Maria where salt production is an important, ongoing industry. There is a tourist point and small museum where visitors can see and learn about how the salt is harvested and buy souvenirs. It is also possible, depending on the season, to see large flocks of flamingos here. I saw a couple on the Motya pools, a few in nearby Salinas, more in Mazara del Vallo, and a couple of large flocks flying north over Trapani.
In and around the town are numerous restaurants and traditional bars (serving coffee as well as drinks) which makes Marsala a pleasant place to visit. Museums offer information about the long history of the town, over two thousand years, and even about the marsala wine production. It takes less than half an hour to reach Marsala from Trapani, though a little longer if taking the scenic coastal route past the salt pans.
Anyone based in Trapani/Erice with a car can have a pleasant day out visiting Marsala and its neighbouring coastal towns.
How to get there
Marsala is along the coast, south of Trapani. Journey time by car is 45 minutes to an hour depending on traffic and route taken. The nice scenic route passes through Salinas and Motya (Mozia) where one can see the salt pans and bird life.
What to do there
Drive around the town (you may have to do this anyway to find a parking space!). Walk along the lungomare. Visit the Pellegrino winery and sample the marsala wines, visit the cathedral and churches, walk around the old market, visit the monuments, museums or archeological sites.
Plenty of restaurants and bars to have coffee, snacks or lunch.